Vanderbilt Medical School Secondary Application Essays

The Vanderbilt MIDP will generally follow the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine admissions process with a few specific requirements and a unique essay question.

Prerequisites and Course Recommendations

1. Completion of PhD or Doctoral-level program

Program in engineering (biomedical, bio-, electrical, mechanical, computer, industrial and systems, nuclear, chemical and biological) or applied sciences (physics, biophysics, medical physics, computer science, applied mathematics, materials science) with evidence of academic excellence. PhD program must be completed prior to matriculation. If the PhD degree wil not be conferred until after matriculation, a letter from the registrar or Dean stating that all degree requirements have been met (including approval of dissertation) is required before matriculation.

2. Completion of Medical College Application Test (MCAT)

For application for admission for Fall 2019, no MCAT scores earlier than January 2015 will be accepted.

3. Demonstrate competencies in biological, physical and social sciences, mathematics and written communications

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine recognizes that the undergraduate academic experience of applicants varies greatly. Therefore, we have made the decision to move away from “requirements” to “recommendations.” The expansive and ever-changing landscape of medicine and its practice necessitates that an applicant have demonstrated competencies in the natural and life sciences, social sciences, and mathematics. These competencies can be met through traditional and/or newly-established interdisciplinary courses of study in an accredited institution of higher learning. The use of AP or other credit is acceptable, but it is strongly encouraged to build stronger competencies through courses taken in college. Although there is no timeframe in which students must meet the above competencies, it is recommended that students have recent exposures to most or all of these areas.

Competitive applicants should demonstrate in-depth competency in each of the following areas of study, based on the AAMC-HHMI Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians and AAMC-Behavioral and Social Science Foundations for Future Physicians. Mastery of competencies is reflected by a strong performance in the classroom and on the MCAT, as well as in letters of evaluation.

Biology: Applicants should demonstrate competence in the understanding of molecular and cellular biology, genetics, and how they regulate organ and organismic structure and function. Fields of study analyzing diverse human properties are viewed in a strong, positive light.

Chemistry/Biochemistry: Applicants should demonstrate competence in the basic principles of chemistry as it pertains to living systems. Studies in biochemistry are an exemplary way to prepare students for training in medicine science.

Mathematics/Statistics and Physics: Applicants should demonstrate competence in the basic principles of physics and mathematics underlying living systems. Applicants should demonstrate basic competence in statistics or biostatistics, which is important to understand the quantitative aspects of medicine and biomedical research.

Social Sciences and Communication: It is imperative that the applicant demonstrate competence in the humanistic understanding of patients as human beings and as part of a familial and social structure. In this regard, studies in psychology and sociology are viewed favorably. It is required that the applicant speaks, writes, and reads English fluently.

4. Letters of Recommendation 

Three letters of recommendation, one of which should be from a research mentor or work supervisor who can describe the applicant’s potential for and commitment to success as an applied physician-scientist           

5. Essays:

  • The Primary AMCAS essay “Use the space below to state why you want to go to medical school”.  Candidates have 5300 characters to complete that section.

  • VUSM Secondary essay 1: "Please discuss a challenging situation or obstacle you have faced in the past. Why was it challenging? How did you handle it? Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently? What did you learn?" (~500 words)

  • VUSM Secondary essay 2: "Write a brief autobiography. As completely and precisely as possible, give a picture of yourself, your family, and events you consider important to you. In doing so, identify the values that are of greatest importance to you. If you have completed your undergraduate education, please comment on what you have done or have been doing since graduation." (~1000 words)
  • Essay unique to this program: “Please let us know why you are interested in the Medical Innovators Development Program and how this program will help you achieve your career goals. Also, please explain how your goals relate to imaging, medical devices, or informatics.” (~500 words)

Important Dates

The application process for admission for Fall 2017 is now closed. Dates for Fall 2018 admissions are tentative and subject to change. Note that our due dates fall prior to standard VUSM dates to allow for consideration of application to MD, if not accepted to Vanderbilt MIDP.

June 2017Begin AMCAS application
October 6, 2017Last day to submit AMCAS for MIDP

October 26-27, 2017

November 16-17, 2017

December 7-8, 2017*

MIDP-MD Interviews (*3rd date if needed)
November 1, 2017MIDP second application deadline
December 2017MIDP acceptance decisions
May 1, 2018Last day to notify Vanderbilt of admission decision

Step 2: Decide how you want to start your essay.

Instead of a paragraph describing what you do, you could use a tipping point in your journey to lead the discussion of the activity’s influence on you.


Weak example:In high school, I participated in model congress. It was very difficult for me at first, because I am not a great public speaker and don’t know much about politics. However, after a lot of research and many unimpressive performances at tournaments, I finally was able to overcome this at the Yale Model Congress tournament in my junior year where I was awarded best delegate after a speech in a full session of over a hundred students about environmental regulations, which I am very passionate about.


Stronger example:DECORUM!” A hush falls over the room with the sound of the gavel pounding against the desk. “Speakers for a two-minute speech in negation,” the chairman of our committee demands, looking out toward the hundreds of students dressed in Western business attire with their placards held high in the air. Mine meekly joins them.


“Senator Smith?” The chairman points the gavel directly at me and my face grows hot under the realization that I will have to give a speech in front of hundreds of more talented, better-spoken peers. When I arrive at the podium, I thumb the engraving that reads “Yale Model Congress 2016” and open my mouth. No sound comes out so I clear my throat twice.


“Senator Jones,” I start out weakly. “This proposed piece of legislation reminds me of my aunt’s chihuahua. All bark, no bite.” Scattered bouts of laughter erupt in the room. Subtle attempt at humor, check. “We all want to protect our environment, but this bill provides very little specifics, and the ones provided are a mere slap on the wrist for the huge corporations that pollute our rivers, lakes, air, and environment.”


You can clearly see how the beginnings of the two different essays differ in sentence structure, use of diction, imagery, and altogether effectiveness of displaying character and writing skills. Be careful to not go overboard with flowery language or fluff though; a 400-word limit requires you to be concise.


Your essay does not have to begin this way; you can start with a memory, a detailed description of an object or event you have built, or an excerpt of a speech or story you’ve penned. You have a lot of creative jurisdiction here, but the most important component to an introduction is the captivation of your audience.


Note: The stronger example weaved two different passions into one essay (model congress and environment conservation). You can definitely do this and it may lead to a stronger supplement, but be wary of trying to cram multiple unrelated extracurriculars into one essay. It will distract the reader from your message.

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